Frequently Asked Questions: Net Zero Company Benchmark
The Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark assesses focus companies against the three high-level goals set by investors: emissions reduction, governance, and climate-related disclosure. The Benchmark draws on distinct analytical methodologies and datasets to provide investors and other stakeholders with a robust tool to facilitate focus company engagement and action.
These FAQs have last been updated in October 2023 to reflect the most recent Benchmark iteration.
About the Benchmark
The Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark (“the Benchmark”) provides an objective way of measuring company progress against investors’ three high-level goals: emissions reduction, governance, and climate-related disclosure on the implementation of net zero transition plans. It tracks business alignment with a net zero emissions future and the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C against Disclosure Framework Indicators and Alignment Assessments.
The indicators and assessments are based on unique analytical methodologies and datasets, which draw on publicly available and self-disclosed data from companies. The Benchmark assessments evaluate how focus companies are addressing climate change risks and provide insight into how companies are transitioning to net zero emissions business models. The types of indicators and assessments broadly fall into two categories, which form a dual approach to evaluating corporate progress on climate action: the Disclosure Framework and Alignment Assessments.
Disclosure Framework Indicators, assessed by the Transition Pathway Initiative Global Climate Transition Centre (TPI Centre) and FTSE Russell evaluate the adequacy of corporate disclosure (with the exception of Metrics 2.3, 3.3 and 4.3 and 11.1.c, which evaluate the alignment of company emissions reduction targets or past emissions intensity reductions with reference climate scenarios). Alignment Assessments, provided by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and InfluenceMap (IM), evaluate the alignment of company actions with the Paris Agreement goals.
The Benchmark is not a disclosure mechanism or database itself. Rather, it is an evaluation tool for engagement that can be used by investors, all of whom will have differing mandates and starting points together with considerations of jurisdiction, regulation and best practice, from which they make their own decisions. Investors always act independently, including with respect to investment decisions and voting.
To assist in their engagements with companies, signatories may wish to use the Benchmark for the following, according to their own discretion:
Monitoring company progress: The Benchmark reinforces and clarifies expectations for what companies need to do to align with the Climate Action 100+ goals and a 1.5°C net zero future, providing a mechanism for tracking progress.
Decision-making on engagement strategies: The results of company assessments can be used by signatories to inform their actions during engagement cycles, such as decisions on voting or other engagement tactics.
Assessing alignment or misalignment: Benchmark assessments can be used by investors to assess alignment between companies’ stated decarbonisation ambitions and their planned or actual decarbonisation investments and activities.
The first company assessments were released in March 2021. They have become a widely cited tool for assessing company progress towards a net zero emissions future. The second set of company assessments was released in March 2022. A third, interim set of company assessments was released in October 2022. The fourth set of assessments against an updated Benchmark 2.0 framework was released in October 2023. To learn more, explore the Benchmark’s background and future development.
Disclosure Framework: There have been annual updates to the methodology used for each set of company assessments so far to reflect the evolving priorities of investors and the latest available climate science. In some cases, the methodological changes to certain indicators have had an impact on year-on-year company performance. As part of Climate Action 100+ moving into its second phase in 2023, the Benchmark Disclosure Framework and the rest of the Benchmark saw significant enhancements.
The March 2022 iteration contained additional Alignment Assessments. These included:
InfluenceMap’s ‘Organisation Scores’ and ‘Relationship Scores’, which assess focus companies’ direct and indirect climate policy engagement activities (via trade associations), respectively.
Assessments from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) (formerly 2 Degrees Investing Initiative; 2DII) measuring the emissions intensities of companies in three additional sectors (steel, cement, and aviation) against reference climate scenarios.
A new provisional assessment from Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) and the Climate Accounting and Audit Project (CAAP) focused on focus companies’ climate accounting and audit practices.
All other alignment assessments from CTI and RMI contained in the March 2021 iteration of the Benchmark remained the same.
There were no changes to the Benchmark framework between March and October 2022.
As part of Climate Action 100+ moving into its second phase, the Benchmark saw substantial enhancements in 2023, designed to ensure that it continued to effectively inform investor engagement with focus companies.
Disclosure Framework updates (TPI Centre and FTSE Russell, an LSEG business)
Significant amendments were made to Indicator 5: Decarbonisation Strategy, Indicator 6: Capital Allocation, Indicator 7: Climate Policy Engagement and Indicator 9: Just Transition, to ensure that assessments of corporate performance in these areas were as robust and comprehensive as possible.
Minor amendments were made to the timeframe and sub-indicators of Disclosure Indicators 2-4: Long-, Medium- and Short-term GHG Reduction Targets.
Disclosure Indicator 8: Climate Governance stayed the same as in the previous iteration, but Sub-indicator 8.3, which assesses focus company Board climate competencies and capabilities, was expanded to all focus companies. This Sub-indicator was previously in ‘Beta’ form and only applied to Australian companies.
A new Disclosure Indicator 11: Historical GHG Emissions Reductions, evaluating past company emissions intensity reductions and the key factors leading to these, was added in 2023 as a ‘Beta’ indicator.
Climate Accounting and Audit (CTI)
These assessments stayed the same in 2023, but companies received a ‘traffic light’ score (i.e., green/amber/red) rather than a binary yes/no score on climate accounting and audit metrics.
These assessments were expanded in 2023 with the addition of the following elements: new aggregate scores of companies’ overall direct and indirect climate lobbying performance, on a scale from A+ to F; a new indicator assessing the accuracy and completeness of corporate climate lobbying disclosures; and a new indicator evaluating how focus companies review and ensure alignment between their climate policy engagement activities and the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Capital Allocation Alignment Assessments for electric utilities and oil & gas (CTI)
While the indicators underlying these assessments continued to measure the same areas as in 2022, electric utility and oil and gas companies were assessed against the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE), Announced Pledges Scenario (APS) and Stated Policy Scenario (STEPS) in 2023, rather than the IEA’s Beyond 2 Degrees Scenario (B2DS).
Capital Allocation Alignment Assessments for airline, automotive, cement, steel and electric utility companies (RMI)
In 2023, RMI expanded their Capital Allocation Alignment Assessments for electric utility and automotive companies by introducing: a new indicator for electric utilities and automotive companies assessing their aggregate alignment with the IEA’s NZE; and a new indicator for electric utilities, evaluating asset-level decarbonisation of companies’ electricity generation and capacity, and whether the changes at asset level were real (i.e., resulting from fossil fuel plant closures or the buildout of renewables), or virtual (i.e., merely resulting from ownership transfers).
First set of company assessments against the Disclosure Framework (March 2021): The first set of company assessments referenced disclosure-based data as of 22 January 2021. TPI prepared preliminary assessments using public data collected up until 30 September 2020. A company review period was then held, starting on 1 December 2020. As part of this, focus companies were invited to review their preliminary assessments, correct any inaccuracies, and submit additional public disclosures.
Second set of company assessments against the Disclosure Framework (March 2022): Company assessments used disclosure-based data as of 31 December 2021. TPI prepared preliminary assessments using public data collected up until mid-November 2021. A company review period was then held, starting on 1 December 2021. As part of this, companies were invited to review their preliminary assessments, correct any inaccuracies, and submit additional public disclosures made up until 31 December 2021.
Third set of company assessments against the Disclosure Framework (October 2022): Company assessments used disclosure-based data as of 13 May 2022, as highlighted by companies to the initiative. During the review period between 12 April to 13 May 2022, companies were invited to notify the initiative of any relevant commitments, disclosures, or feedback that was not reflected in their final March 2022 Benchmark assessments and which they believed could improve their scores.
Fourth set of company assessments against the Disclosure Framework (October 2023): Company assessments used self-disclosed data from companies valid as of 29 May 2023. During the period from 26 April to 29 May 2023, companies were invited to review their preliminary assessments, correct any inaccuracies, and submit additional public disclosures made up until 29 May 2023. Company disclosures published after the cut-off date of 29 May 2023 were not included in the 2023 Disclosure Framework assessments.
No, company disclosures or commitments made after the cut-off date for each Benchmark iteration are not reflected in company assessments for the relevant iteration. However, references to new and relevant company disclosures are published on a quarterly basis in the ‘Notes’ section at the bottom of each focus company’s assessment. These new disclosures have not been formally assessed and are presented as supplementary, unaudited information, allowing for visibility into recent company progress. While these disclosures may be considered in future iterations of the Benchmark, they will have no effect on the official Benchmark scores for the existing assessment iteration.
A preliminary copy of the most recent Benchmark framework and methodologies is sent to all focus companies to communicate revisions or updates. The Benchmark 2.0 framework was also published on the Climate Action 100+ website in March 2023.
In addition, preliminary assessments against the Disclosure Framework are sent to all focus companies ahead of publication as part of the company review period, during which focus companies are invited to provide feedback on individual assessments and flag any inaccuracies. Final Disclosure Framework assessments are also shared with focus companies as a courtesy prior to their public launch.
The Benchmark builds on successive consultations with investors, companies, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders. In recent years, this has included:
A public feedback survey on the framework and methodologies used for the March 2022 Benchmark company assessments, which was launched in November 2021 and open until April 2022.
A public consultation on a set of proposals to enhance the Net Zero Company Benchmark for the next phase of Climate Action 100+, which opened in October 2022. The survey was open until 11 November 2022 and allowed investor signatories and other stakeholders to share their views on the proposed indicators for the 2023 Benchmark iteration. The feedback was collated and considered in the development of the methodology used for company assessments in 2023.
Moving forward, investor signatories and other stakeholders will continue to be consulted on changes to the Benchmark framework and methodologies.
Climate Action 100+ also welcomes feedback on the Benchmark on an ongoing basis. If you have comments, questions or feedback, please get in touch via [email protected].
About the Methodology
The Benchmark assessments are provided by a range of research partners that make up the Climate Action 100+ Technical Advisory Group (TAG). The TAG is a group of select organisations that provide the initiative with technical expertise along with research and analysis to assess companies’ preparedness for the transition to a net zero emissions economy. They include the Transition Pathway Initiative Global Climate Transition Centre (TPI Centre), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI; formerly 2 Degrees Investing Initiative, 2DII), Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) and InfluenceMap (IM).
The Benchmark draws on public and self-disclosed data from companies. It can be categorised into two types of indicators:
The Disclosure Framework, assessed by TPI Centre and FTSE Russell, draws on public and self-disclosed data from companies. This data is collected from sources such as company annual reports, sustainability reports, press releases, and CDP disclosures. The Disclosure Framework provides insights into the publicly stated aims and commitments made by companies. The exact data source for each metric is not provided in the public company profiles. Download the Disclosure Framework methodology to learn more.
Alignment Assessments, provided by CTI, RMI and IM, complement the Disclosure Framework. They provide independent evaluations of the alignment and adequacy of company actions with the goals of Climate Action 100+ and the Paris Agreement. Download the methodologies from CTI, RMI and IM to learn more.
The Benchmark does not specifically seek to score or rank companies. As every component of the Benchmark is important, the intent is to ensure that investors and other stakeholders give all Indicators, Sub-indicators, Metrics, and Alignment Assessments due consideration, rather than focusing on overall rankings or scores.
Company assessments are intended to draw investor attention to the most significant aspects of corporate decarbonisation strategies and companies’ climate action or inaction. Some indicators may have greater relevance for certain companies, sectors or regions than others.
The Net Zero Company Benchmark Disclosure Framework provides a sector-neutral set of indicators and assessments that measures the net zero transition readiness of companies across the globe. It sets out key elements of a credible decarbonisation strategy that are relevant to all companies. Therefore, the Disclosure Framework does not typically tailor indicators to individual sectors or regions.
On the other hand, some of the Alignment Assessments in the Benchmark provide sector-specific analytics to evaluate the alignment of company actions with the initiative’s goals and the Paris Agreement. For example, CTI’s Alignment Assessments focus on the electric utility and oil and gas sectors, while RMI’s (formerly 2 Degrees Investing Initiative, 2DII) Alignment Assessments pertain to the electric utility, automotive, steel, cement, and airlines sectors.
Climate Action 100+ recognises the nuances presented by different sectors and regions included within the Benchmark and the need for a deeper level of specificity in investor engagements with companies. Some of these nuances are highlighted within the ‘Notes’ section of each company’s online Benchmark scorecard. To further aid signatories in encouraging focus companies to meet the goals of the initiative, Climate Action 100+ has also developed a set of Global Sector Strategies for key carbon-intensive industries, which identify sector-specific priority actions that companies need to take to reach net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.
An additional note about whether Asian companies’ emissions reduction targets align to their home country NDCs was added to relevant company Benchmark profiles in March 2021 with the understanding that many companies operating under Asian jurisdictions are under the directive of their home country NDCs. This note compared each country’s NDC (based on their latest submission to the UNFCCC) against the most recent publicly announced (including to CDP) carbon reduction goals of the relevant companies.
The initiative adopted 2030 (as specified in NDCs) as the timeframe against which companies’ emissions reductions targets were measured. Therefore, companies that had declared 2050 net zero targets but not set 2030 targets were assessed as not aligned.
With the subsequent announcement by many Asian countries of updated NDCs seeking net zero emissions alignment, this note was deemed unnecessary and will therefore no longer be included in future iterations of the Benchmark.
Nearly every indicator within the Disclosure Framework references companies’ degree of commitment to the higher-ambition goals of the Paris Agreement (i.e., limiting global warming to 1.5°C). For example; Indicator 1 assesses whether companies have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, which is the level of ambition the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C; Sub-indicators 2.3, 3.3, 4.3 and 11.1.c explicitly assess company emissions alignment against 1.5°C scenarios (or close approximations thereto); Indicator 7 looks at whether the company commits to lobbying in line with the Paris Agreement and within that, its higher-ambition goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C; and Indicator 10 looks at whether companies include a 1.5° C scenario in their quantitative climate-related scenario analysis.
For assessments released in March 2021, companies’ emissions reduction targets were assessed against TPI scenarios largely reflecting the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s reference scenarios for available sectors (with the exception of the automobile sector which is based on scenario data provided by the ICCT). This often meant assessing companies against the IEA’s Beyond 2° Scenario (B2DS). B2DS is a rapid-transition scenario equivalent to an estimated 1.6°C of global warming in this century with net zero emissions reached by 2060 (with an approximate 50% chance).
In the March 2022 and October 2022 Disclosure Framework assessments, Sub-indicators 2.3, 3.3 and 4.2 assessed companies against the IEA’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario (NZE) released in May 2021, for sectors where data was available. This set out a pathway to reach net zero emissions by mid-century and keep the global temperature rise to 1.5°C with a 50% probability. NZE is only available for certain sectors.
In 2023 assessments against Sub-indicators 2.3, 3.3, 4.3 and 11.1.c, companies were assessed against TPI Centre’s 1.5 Degrees scenario, which draws on modelled data from IEA biennial Energy Technology Perspective reports, World Economic Outlook reports and NZE. TPI Centre’s 1.5 Degrees scenario is consistent with a carbon budget that limits the global mean temperature rise to 1.5°C with a 50% probability. Please see here for more detail on TPI Centre’s Carbon Performance methodologies.
Most of the 2023 Alignment Assessments evaluate company actions with reference to holding global warming to 1.5°C, with CTI and RMI assessments referencing the latest IEA NZE pathway. RMI assessments for airlines continue to reference IEA’s Beyond 2 Degrees Scenario (B2DS) due to limited data availability on the aviation sector in the IEA’s NZE pathway. InfluenceMap derives its scoring benchmarks from the IPCC’s Special Report on 1.5°C warming.
The Benchmark Disclosure Framework and TPI’s methodology to assess focus company alignment with global climate scenarios are derived from the absolute emissions pathways and total carbon budgets developed by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Performance is described in intensity terms to allow for comparisons between companies and to eliminate the size differences between companies. For example, if a large company reduces its emissions by a certain absolute amount, it might represent only a relatively small portion of the company’s overall emissions impact, whereas if a smaller company were to reduce its absolute emissions by the exact same amount, it may represent a much greater effort given the company’s size and emissions impact. Using emissions intensity as the metric of performance better accounts for the difference in scale between companies and thereby enhances the comparability of company emissions reduction targets. Download the framework and methodologies to learn more.
In the longer term, the investor networks that coordinate Climate Action 100+ may consider integrating more features to measure and compare absolute emissions trends.
Scope 3 applicability (i.e. which Scope 3 categories are deemed applicable for a given company) is determined on a sector level and based on consultation with climate experts, investor signatories and investor networks.
Generally speaking, the classification system outlined below, which is in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol, applies:
There may be some exceptions where companies do not fit into the classification system above and in these cases the Scope 3 applicability is decided along with the lead investors on a case-by-case basis.
The Disclosure Framework of the Benchmark identifies key elements that should be included in any company’s decarbonisation strategy. It is sector and region neutral.
As part of the Alignment Assessments, third-party data providers offer independent evaluations of the adequacy of company actions vis-a-vis their disclosures. These provide insights into any contrasts between what companies say in their disclosures versus what they do in practice.
The investor networks that coordinate Climate Action 100+ recognise that the adequacy of company decarbonisation strategies may strongly depend on the company’s sector or region. Therefore, when assessing the credibility of such strategies, investors and other stakeholders are encouraged to use other sector-specific climate transition plan tools, such as the Climate Action 100+ Global Sector Strategies, in combination with the Benchmark.
Additional sector-specific assessments may be considered for future iterations of the Benchmark, where feasible and available.
Offsets are explicitly referred to in the methodology guidance for Sub-indicator 5.1 of the Disclosure Framework, which asks that any decarbonisation strategy “clearly identifies the set of actions the company will implement to achieve its decarbonisation targets (such as phasing out carbon intensive products or assets, developing or deploying low carbon technologies, decarbonising supply chains or using offsets).”
In addition, two new metrics evaluating corporate disclosures on the use of offsets were added to the Disclosure Framework in 2023:
The new Metric 5.1.c assesses company disclosures on the use of offsets and negative emissions technologies, and has been developed on the basis of feedback obtained in the public consultation held in Q4 2022.
The new Metric 11.2.b evaluates the comprehensiveness of company disclosures on carbon credit retirement.
Please note that these metrics do not endorse or promote the use of offsets and negative emissions technologies in corporate decarbonisation strategies. Rather, they evaluate whether company disclosures on these matters are comprehensive and robust enough to support investor engagement. Companies are encouraged to be transparent about how they use offsets, and to clearly delineate between their own emission reduction efforts and the emission reductions delivered through offsets.
There is currently no agreed methodology to integrate offsets into sectoral assessment methodologies, such as TPI’s Carbon Performance methodology. All TPI benchmarks (which are relevant to Sub-indicators 2.3, 3.3, 4.3 and 11.1 of the Disclosure Framework) represent the transition efforts that individual sectors have to make, independent of the use of offsets. RMI and CTI do not include offsets in their models.
Many investors are of the view that the use of offsetting or carbon credits should be avoided and limited, if applied at all. In particular, offsetting or ‘carbon dioxide removal’ should not be used by companies operating in sectors where viable decarbonisation technologies exist. For example, offsetting would not be considered credible if used to offset emissions for a coal-fired power plant because viable alternatives to that form of power generation exist.
Past Net Zero Company Benchmark company assessment results can be downloaded in Excel via the key findings page.
The timing of the second or interim 2022 assessment release marked a change of the analysis and reporting cycle for the Net Zero Company Benchmark assessments from March to October. This was done in order to improve alignment with corporate reporting and better support investor engagement with focus companies. The October cycle of Benchmark assessments provided investors with timely data to inform engagement strategies ahead of upcoming proxy seasons.
The October 2022 Benchmark assessments included updated company assessments for both the Disclosure Framework and the Alignment Assessments.
Please note that there were no changes to the Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark framework between the March 2022 assessments and the October 2022 assessments. This provided consistency between the two iterations.
On 26 April 2023, focus companies were invited to notify TPI Centre of any relevant commitments and disclosures that were not reflected in their preliminary 2023 Benchmark Disclosure Framework assessments and which they believed could improve their scores. The deadline for company feedback on preliminary Disclosure Framework assessments was 29 May 2023. There were no exceptions or extensions after the deadline. Following this, focus companies were notified of their final Disclosure Framework scoresapproximatelytwo weeks before these were published on the Climate Action 100+ website.